23 October 2018

Robbing My Time: A Rant

In his song, “Close the Door Lightly” Eric Andersen sings, 
Who was the one that stole my mind?
Who was the one that robbed my time?
Who was the one? Made me feel unkind
So fare thee well, sweet love of mine
I thought about those sentiments today as I rode my bike during a spin cycle class. I have for the past forty-five years exercised with some regularity. For many of those years I ran long distances. I have run three marathons and didn’t finish last in one of them. I loved running not only for the physical benefits of exercise but for the psychological and emotional rewards that I enjoyed. I often took my life out on the roads, thought through personal and professional situations—even difficulties—and returned to the house cleansed, at peace, even sometimes transformed. I wrote my books during those miles, and I wrote the eulogy for my father. My running almost always calmed me and gave me energy. Running as part of my days improved those days. Ah yes, there were some bad days when the running proved difficult, my breath drawn with difficulty and my legs heavy, but in my memory those days were rare. I found peace on the roads. I made my peace out on the roads.
     I have retired from about four or so years ago and taken up spin cycling and yoga. I practice of the latter only Hatha Yoga or Ashtanga Vinyasa. In both the atmosphere is peaceful, calming. The music soundtrack is quiet. I can Be. Now, spin cycle has a different ambiance: the music is loud and pulsing, and the class instructor directs the class through a microphone. “Turn the blue knob, increase resistance; double your speed; up, out of the saddle; get a drink.” Spin cycle has become for me a total physical experience with a rare and often surprising moment of insight. When I ran I could set an agenda for my thought, but that is impossible in the cycle class. I’m there to sweat and get my heart rate up. I still set the agenda: I rarely follow the instructor’s lead not to be oppositional but because I am not physically capable of doing what he says. And he does often remark, “Do what you can. This is your ride.” And the music, neither Bob Dylan nor the Grateful Dead (but sometimes Bruce Springsteen and the Talking Heads) accompanies the ride and facilitates my effort.
     I join the class to improve myself and not to be improved. Loud as the music in the room may be, I can usually find my space in the room to exist in some private quiet and find some personal peace. But sometimes, however, the instructor robs my time, and the class becomes a forum for his/her agenda. I’m thinking of Lyle Lovett’s song “Church,” where the preacher he keeps on preaching and everyone in the congregation gets hungrier and hungrier: “And now everyone was getting so hungry/That the old ones started feeling ill/And the weak ones started passing out/And the young ones they could not sit still.” I don’t come to class for life coaching, and I don’t want to be assaulted by declarations concerning what I should believe and how I should act. I don’t want to be lectured with an agenda that is not mine and that does not apply to me. I just want to spin, to sweat, and to occasionally have a necessary thought. Insight rare but welcome.
     And electronic music doesn’t inspire me to work harder at all but rather, it seems to make me angry and want to get the hell out of there.  
Who was the one that stole my mind?
Who was the one that robbed my time?
Who was the one? Made me feel unkind
So fare thee well, sweet love of mine